Call it the Marcus Garvey Steel Shed
THE RIGHT EXCELLENT ERROL BARROW often used to remark that one of his most profound formative political experiences was sitting in the Queen’s Park Steel Shed as a 17-year-old and listening to Marcus Garvey address the Barbadian people in October 1937!
The message of black pride, initiative and nationalism that Barrow heard on that occasion stayed with him and helped to shape him into the type of political leader that he became.
But there was nothing unique about Barrow’s experience for virtually every single progressive black “public man” in Barbados between 1918 and 1940 was influenced and shaped by the Honourable Marcus Garvey and the powerful black nationalist philosophy of Garveyism!
Indeed, organized 20th century black Barbadian political and labour activism began in 1919 when the Marcus Garvey Movement announced its arrival in Barbados with the establishment of the first of six branches of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)!
They were the first institutionalized expression of labour and black political activism at a time when trade unions were still illegal and a black-run political party was unheard of.
No doubt, one of the reasons Barbados readily embraced Garveyism was because of the number of Barbadian migrants in the United States and other parts of the “Black World” who occupied leading roles in the UNIA.
For example, Barbadian Arnold Josiah Forde was the musical director of the UNIA and composed most of the movement’s stirring anthems and hymns, including the Universal Ethiopian Anthem – the unofficial national anthem of the entire “Black World” in the 1920s and 1930s.
And so, the UNIA was the essential foundation on which all of the subsequent Barbadian political and labour organizations were built, including the Democratic League, the Working Men’s Association, the Barbados Labour Party, the Barbados Workers’ Union, and the Congress Party.
Indeed, a roll call of Barbadian activists who were either members of the UNIA or significantly influenced by Garvey would include Charles Duncan O’Neal, Clennel Wickham, James A. Tudor, Clement Payne, Menzies Chase, Chrissie Brathwaite, J. A. Martineau, Moses Small, J. T. C. Ramsay, Rawle Parkinson, Dr Hugh Gordon Cummins, Ulric Grant, Herbert Seale, Sir Hugh Springer and Wynter Crawford.
In light of this history and record it makes eminent sense for the Barbadian people to see in Garvey a man who made such a tremendous contribution to the development of Barbados that he deserves to be honoured and memorialized in our country.
It is against this background therefore that the Peoples Empowerment Party has no difficulty whatsoever in supporting the Clement Payne Movement’s proposal that the Queen’s Park Steel Shed be renamed the “Marcus Garvey Steel Shed” since Garvey and the philosophy of Garveyism are woven into the very spirit, culture and ethos of Barbados.
We therefore look forward with great anticipation to the public discussion of this issue at the Steel Shed on the night of Friday, May 25.
• The PEP column represents the views of the People’s Empowerment Party. Email firstname.lastname@example.org